Amid these uncertain times due to COVID-19, I thought I would do a small post highlighting some of the recent advances regarding accessibility. New step-free stations on the Crossrail route have now created a fully accessible (to platforms) corridor from Reading to the Greater London boundary. To compensate for the finished works, there have been recent announcement for new step-free access schemes across the country, so there will still be plenty to report after Crossrail is fully finished.
The past few days have seen the completion of step-free access works at Iver and Langley, which are neighbouring stations on the Crossrail West route, just outside of Greater London. With these openings, there are 6 stations left to be made step-free between Paddington and Reading. These remaining stations should all be ready by the end of the year.
Access for All Mid-Tier
Late last month, the Government announced the 124 stations set to benefit from Network Rail’s £20m Access for All Mid-Tier Programme. This funding, unlike the main programme that focusses on in-depth step-free access scheme, includes more small-scale interventions, such as tactile paving, handrails, ramps and platform humps. The vast majority of stations are in the North, but London does get a handful:
- Chessington South
- Ealing Broadway
- Hackney Downs
- Kew Bridge
- West Croydon
From this list, it is not clear what the nature of this work will be, as Chessington South was recently made step-free, and both Ealing Broadway and Hackney Downs have already received funding for step-free access works. For the remaining stations, Barking, West Croydon, and Surbiton have step-free access to all platform (even if this access is not the most straightforward), so it will be interesting to see what will actually be done. At least for Surbiton, thanks to Ed Davey’s tweet below, we know this funding will be used to bring step-free access to the rear entrance of the station.
Kew Bridge is the only station listed that currently offers no step-free access. Given the construction of Brentford FC’s new stadium, located directly next to the station, it would be unimaginable for this station to be left inaccessible. And so, I believe some of this funding will go towards making the station at least partially accessible. However, I will not add it to the Future Station list until more information becomes available.
Finally, the more exciting funding from the Government came earlier this week as part of the Government’s Budget announcement. While a more detailed report regarding infrastructure is expected later this year, the announcement did contain some interesting developments. Some of these include plans for a metro system for West Yorkshire (most likely a tram network rather than a heavy rail system), expansions for the Tyne and Wear Metro, West Midland Metro, and Manchester’s Metrolink, 12 further stations for Access for All’s main programme, and most importantly, a £4.2bn investment for 8 city regions to set up a London-style transport network.
This would give funding to the metro mayors of West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, West Midlands, Liverpool City Region, Tyne and Wear, West of England, Sheffield City Region and Tees Valley to put forth comprehensive transport plans. This would allow the mayors to play a much bigger role in the managing and development of new transport infrastructure. It will be great to see what schemes come out of this, especially with regards to accessibility improvements and level boarding.
Looking at the 12 new Access for All stations, there are 4 located within the Oyster Zone. These are Ockendon (c2c), Tooting (Thameslink), South Croydon (Southern), and Motspur Park (South Western). All four are relatively small commuter stations, and they will plug up some of the step-free gaps present in London’s sprawling suburbs. Similarly to the 73 stations announced last year, we expect these works to be finished by 2024. However, given the tendency of step-free access schemes to miss their target dates, we will have to see whether they are delivered on time.
Stay Safe, Everyone
Despite these positive developments, our current situation due to the coronavirus means that most of us will be forced to adjust our travelling habits and take extra precautions when being out, starting in the next few days (if not already). I urge all my readers to exercise your best judgment, listen to the experts, and take care of yourselves and loved ones.